For four days I have been meaning to write this entry, but my computer crashed, so it wasn't possible. I let the thought go around in circles in my head, just out of reach. I know I could have written it down. In fact I commented to my daughter that it was surprising how reticent I was to writing in the old fashioned way with pen and pencil, yet I ask my students to do this everyday. It got me thinking. It got me thinking about writing, and my original post was postponed.
It is no wonder my students get writers block once a paper is handed to them. I know they are writing all the time, but it seems so much easier to just peck at a keyboard. I wonder how much better our students would score on any essay if they were allowed to use a word processor, with or without spell check for example to write their essays for tests. They do it all the time for their projects, I might as well let them do it for their tests.
The benefit for teachers doesn't need to be overlooked. A word processed essay will be legible. I have students write so light, so small, or so unclear that they are not legible. I wonder how many students have scored low because the teacher or the scorer could not read it.
I also wonder how much better it would be for our state tests, essays or otherwise. They would be easier to submit and correct. They already give other tests on computers, what would be so difficult to give the FCAT? The probable answer to that is providing enough computers for all the students. A solution for the test taking would be having the students rotate according to grade level on taking the tests using the computers available on campus. It could work. I can only think that the savings on paper alone would be substantial.
Of course they need to have a statewide survey on the technology available at each school. Perhaps they can introduce the computer test at the high school level first and gradually do it in the middle schools, then finally at the elementary. But they need to do something. I know it would save a heck of a lot of manpower, gas, paper, as well as trees.
The tests could be graded quickly, and have almost instant results, which could provide for remedial classes almost tailored made to address the student's particular deficiencies. (we do this already to some extent with benchmark testing) As things are currently, teachers are expected to cram a year's worth of benchmarks into seven months. If a test didn't have such a slow turn around in being corrected then it wouldn't have to be given so early thus allowing more time for students to prepare for the test (meaning practice critical thinking, etc). It would also make the year much more "education" friendly. By this I mean, it seems that once the state exam is given, kids don't think it is important to continue learning.
The issue is complicated but worthwhile to consider. The benefits would be enormous in making the state "greener," not to mention more efficient. If you consider how fast the delivery of the test would be compared to the toil, anxiety, and extreme security involved in the present set up, the effort would be worthwhile. The savings alone could be money well spent in upgrading technology in many of our schools. Is it me or hasn't anybody else thought of this way at the top?